Great Shaved Ice Treats from Asia and the Pacific

If you’re lucky enough to live in Texas while there’s a Bahama Buck’s near you, you probably considered yourself lucky. This is one place to get a quick and affordable frozen treat to help you deal with the hot Texas climate, particularly during the summer afternoons. 

Here, the smoothies cost between $4 and $6, you have frozen latte options, you can sit back and enjoy a lemonade, and you can make your own floats. But the top billing goes to their Sno Shaved Ice offerings. Here, they have more than 100 original gourmet flavor combinations, and you can always come up with your own mix. 

But the shaved ice concept isn’t actually popular just in Texas, or even just the US. In fact, it didn’t even originate in the US. Other countries around the globe already know about the yumminess of shaved ice, and they have versions of shaved ice treats that you probably haven’t tried before. 

If you’re going on a jaunt around some Pacific islands to celebrate the eventual end of the pandemic crisis, see if you can find the following shaved ice treats in your travels: 

Hawaiian Shaved Ice

This is the state with the greatest number of excellent shaved ice shops, and it’s not surprising considering the local climate. The first shaved ice stands started out way back in the early 1900s, with the idea brought in by Japanese plantation workers. 

The original shaved ice treats come with ice that looked like fluffy fine snow, then topped with flavored syrups. Today, it’s easy enough to find a shaved ice shop in Hawaii that uses syrups with lots of bright colors and a wide range of flavors. The standard Hawaiian shaved ice comes with a scoop of ice cream inside, and then the ice is topped with sweet red azuki beans. 

But there are artisanal shops that focus on using mostly local ingredients that you may not easily find in the US mainland. So, you can finally taste shaved ice concoctions with flavors of papaya, soursop, and passionfruit. 

Japanese Kakigori

This is what the Japanese workers brought into Hawaii when they came over, and in their old country it’s a classic summer treat which they called kakigori. The Japanese actually came up with the idea of shaved ice way back in either the 10th or 11th century. However, during those early days, it wasn’t easy to make so it was reserved for the elites. It was only during the late1800s when the common folks were able to enjoy this too, as the industrialization of the country made it easier to move the ice from place to place. 

The Japanese use a large block of plain ice that they put into their kakigori machine, which shaves fine bits of the ice. They pile the ice into a tall mound in a squat bowl, and then they top it with their flavored syrups. Common syrup flavors here include fruity flavors like strawberry and melon. But you can try it with mizore, which is a mild-tasting white sugar syrup that’s pretty popular. Matcha is another must-try version, and it’s often combined with a drizzle of condensed milk. 

Filipino Halo-Halo

This is a classic dessert in the Philippines, and during the summer, you’ll find plenty of local homes putting up halo-halo stands to sell to their neighbors. It’s usually served in a tall glass, since you’re supposed to stir all of the ice and ingredients around. The literal translation of halo-halo is “mix-mix”. 

The glass should also be clear, so you can appreciate the nice layering of the ingredients inside. Sellers offer lots of different ingredients, and you can pick several or all of them into your halo-halo. Common ingredients include shredded coconut, mung beans, palm nuts, toasted rice flakes, jack fruit, and other small bits of fruit. These go on the bottom, and then they put the saved ice on top and then drizzle with the condensed milk. In many cases, they top things off with leche flan or purple yam (ube). 

This is one treat here that you have got to try if you’re ever in the Philippines during the summer. Temperatures in this tropical country can reach up to 41 degrees C. That’s 105° F. For comparison, the average North Texas summer temperature is 84.4 degrees F. With the halo-halo, you may be able to avoid getting heatstroke! 

South Korean Patbingsu

Patbingsu is so common in South Korea that they even sell this in local KFC locations. They serve the shaved ice shaped like a mound into a bowl, and then embellish it ingredients like condensed milk and sweet red beans, which the people here regard as the most important patbingsu topping of them all. 

They also usually add stuff like various slices of fruit, rice cakes (tteok) and toasted soybean powder. Some versions even feature ice cream. 

Have fun in the Pacific, and don’t stay under the sun for too long!